In the penultimate month of 2021, Katherine attended her second graduation ceremony and continued winter training for the 2022 event season.
Having spent the last several years focusing on my education (from my A-levels through my BSc and finishing with my MSc), I sometimes felt ‘left behind’ in riding. My cohort started to jump higher, compete at bigger events, and experience championships that I aged out of before ever being at the level to be selected. We all take our own path, however, and there was no accolade, no sash or rosette that could compare to receiving my MSc certificate, having graduated with Distinction in Business and Organisational Psychology. Unlike my graduation from the University of Birmingham, lesser restrictions meant a more traditional ceremony at Coventry University, and we sat as a group in the historic cathedral. As fun as the day was, it was strange to have last seen my classmates in December 2020, before learning once again went online. There was a huge sense of pride, however, as the majority of us had completed two degrees in the throes of the pandemic, all reminiscing about wifi cuts during Zoom lectures and dissertation writing in the early hours from our childhood bedrooms. The challenges and triumphs of the past couple of years have certainly provided me with ample ammunition for job interviews! For the first time in 18 years, I am no longer in full-time education and the last seven years (from GCSEs in Y11 to MSc) have tested my discipline and motivation to ever increasing extremes. Suitable job hunting has been tougher than I anticipated with an MSc, but every interview helps me improve and the feedback I have received so far has been highly encouraging and pleasantly complimentary.
Graduating from Coventry. Credit Rowena Bertram
Although my education in the classroom may be over – for now at least – I will never finish my education with the horses. My fantastic riding club (Worcester and District Riding Club), who I have been lucky enough to represent several times over the past couple of years, organised a clinic day with Tom McEwen who I have previously trained with at Banfield Equestrian. Chris, the organiser, received a message from me almost instantly asking for spaces so I could take three horses over the two days, such is my high opinion of Tom. Sadly for me, I developed a severe case of tonsillitis after returning from my last residential camp with Caroline Moore so I was quite under the weather, but there was no way I was missing out so I took my antibiotics between horses and promised Tom that I wasn’t contagious! First up was Penny – Annia Aurelia (Marcus Aurelius x Bint Zaehaebi) – who Tom instantly recognised as “not the horse I saw the other week”. Penny has a long history of sneering at some of the country’s top riders and I had been expecting her to regard Tom with the same “and you are?” expression but I needn’t have worried. Penny very quickly got the measure of Tom, as did he of her, and I think they both decided they genuinely liked each other. She certainly jumped well and he was highly complimentary of her ability and attitude so she swaggered out of the arena and threw the gauntlet down to Odin.
Talking lines with Tom McEwen. Credit Rowena Bertram
Having had a couple of training camps with Tom, they both instantly recognised each other which made Odin very happy; I think he considers the Olympic double medallist as ‘one of the lads’. He was bucking and leaping in between fences that provided everyone with some entertainment and the jumps could not go big enough to satisfy my very naughty horse. Having pushed us back up to 110cm the month before, Tom seemed happy with our progress and commented on my adaptability between the two horses which was a huge compliment coming from the current World no 2 in Eventing. After another fantastic session, I broke the news to Tom that I would be back the next day with Odin and Penny’s 20-year-old dad in case he hadn’t seen enough of me yet, but he seemed genuinely pleased so the children must have done a pretty good job. Marcus – Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica) was so happy to be included and, because I had been there the previous day, Tom used us as the guinea-pig pair to try out some new and technical lines. Marcus seemed instantly taken with Tom, possibly because we entered the arena to “and there’s dad!”, or perhaps because he convinced one of the world’s best Eventers to stand in the water tray after giving it the full “hair and nostrils” routine. He didn’t spook at it while jumping of course, but I think the old man got a laugh out of it. Luckily for me and the reputation of Arabian performance horses, Marcus was a star and jumped beautifully which earned him plenty of compliments. He certainly doesn’t want to hand over all duties to his kids just yet! A huge thank you to Chris for organising, mum for driving, and Tom for teaching.
Get in the water tray Tom. Credit Rowena Bertram
It hasn’t just been out and about that we have been training this Winter. A lot of work is done at home, and now we are definitely in ‘schooling under the floodlight’ territory, that may one day be great preparation for the Horse of the Year Show spotlight. I can dream! Penny has also managed some outings to local venues for arena hire, which has been excellent for us to practice technique around a full course. After I eventually recovered from tonsillitis, I met my brilliant trainer Erica at an arena hire for a lesson which brought me and Penny on leaps and bounds. As I write, I have just started another course of antibiotics after a pretty nasty wisdom tooth infection so I might once again have to wait for more training. Despite feeling under the weather for the second time in two months, I am being kept in full work by Penny who likes to be ridden almost every day, whereas the boys are celebrating a lighter work schedule.
Penny training at home. Credit Katherine Bertram
We have been lucky this year by keeping a portion of the horses on summer grazing for longer than usual. Time finally ran out and we brought the final three home during November, so we have a full barn until the New Year. Maddie – Avonbrook Winter Queen (Marcus Aurelius x Avonbrook Summer Breeze), Archie – Avonbrook Beltane Silver (Marcus Aurelius x Caveland Calypso) – and Delphi – Blue Delphinium (Shadow Blue x Bey Drachma) – all bundled into the lorry and quickly settled back in with the family. We gave them a couple of days on the field to have a run around and adjust into their herds, and now they are all on the Winter track to save the field for Spring. It does make riding more interesting as I have to wade through nosey youngsters to get up to the arena, but they all respect the authority of the tacked-up horse with the shouty creature on top so my main danger is Maddie stealing the stirrup leathers whenever my back is turned.
Some of the mare herd. Credit Rowena Bertram
Although the Winter is never as full of competitions as the summer months, this November did play host to my Masters graduation and plenty of top class training with the horses. I am endlessly grateful for the opportunities I have received that have allowed me to get to where I am today, and I look forward to seeing where the next few months take me.
Katherine Bertram is an English young rider who competes in a variety of different disciplines on her mother’s homebred pure and part-bred Arabians. Having achieved advanced rider status in Endurance after her first season at age 14 on Marcus Aurelius (Aurelian x Fiesta Magica), Katherine turned her attention to showjumping with his progeny, at which she currently competes at Senior Newcomers (1.10). As well as also delving into showing, eventing and, occasionally, dressage, Katherine juggles her studies while attending the University of Birmingham.